I was chatting with one of my friends from cruise ship life the other day about the future of cruising. The future of cruising for us though isn’t just about when you can sail away to a tropical paradise again. For us it affects our work, our relationships, and so much of our futures. There is uncertainty surrounding all of it right now at much higher levels than us, and then finally we got to the question of if cruising were to start again, would you want to go back to work?
There is the part of you that wants to instantly say, “yes, of course I’ll go back!” and there is the part of you that thinks about what the experience might be like. Our conversation focused on the latter – what the experience might be like. While as a passenger I would be game to go on a cruise right now would I really want to go back in the current situation as a crew member?
As we haven’t received anything specific from the cruise line, what we can piece together of what the future of cruising will look like is based on the cruise lines, such as Costa Cruises that are already sailing and the protocols they have in place, which based on their success, and discussed here by the CEO of Carnival Corporation in this video from CNBC, we would have to assume will be continued when other lines resume. We can also assume that the guidelines outlined by the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) and provided to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) will also be enforced.
I, personally, would go back to work onboard. I have been without a job onboard for a long time, and, as long as they had me on the same ship as my husband, would really be happy getting back to work. I trust the health protocols that they would have in place, as outlined above, would continue to work and keep the passengers and crew safe. For me it would make sense – for others, it’s a bit less of a straightforward decision.
While there are some crew onboard that work on ships for a career – from right out of school through retirement – there is a large percentage of the crew (especially the passenger facing roles) where the crew are there as a way to see the world while earning a paycheck. When I first started working on ships it was because I wanted to travel but had just graduated college and thusly was knowledge rich and cash poor. I had been a passenger on quite a few cruises and it looked like a fun way to earn money while traveling. In a non-career focused job onboard I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t there only for the money and not only for the job, I was there for the thrill of travel. However, I am an example of changing priorities: I went to ships for the travel and now, the travel would be a fringe benefit of having a career while still being able to see my hubby.
One of the large changes that is outlined both by what Costa is doing as well as in the CLIA guidelines is that shore leave for passengers will only be on scheduled shore excursions. For passengers, I do not think this is a big deal for right now. Perhaps you pick one port during a week long cruise that you decide to go on a shore excursion and the rest of the week you stay onboard and enjoy the amenities of the ship.
However, what this means in regards to the crews ability to go ashore I do not know. I would assume that crew could also only go if they were on a shore excursion. This would likely mean a lot less time ashore because of both the availability of excursions for crew (although I’m sure as they are able they are offering “crew tours”, tours that are offered exclusively to crew members – usually similar to a passenger tour but sometimes for a shortened length of time to accommodate work schedules), as well as the time needed to go on these excursions. For myself when I was working onboard there were times that I could take most of a day to go on an excursion, but there were contracts where my port time was perhaps only a few hours.
Will this dissuade crew from going back onboard? I think that it depends on their personal situations; largely their personal financial situation, and whether or not they saw cruise ships as a career or as a fun way to see the world. I know of quite a few people that have taken this shut down as a time to change focus on their careers and make a shift. For some it was done out of necessity, for others it was a change they had planned on doing in the future and the shutdown simply pushed them to it a bit sooner.
Of the requirements we discussed – mask wearing, temperature checks, social distancing, testing – the lack of ability to leave the ship on your own seemed to be the biggest sticking point to going back.
As someone that couldn’t go ashore for months this spring I can understand it. Not only do crew members use time ashore as a chance to explore the places we visit, it’s a chance to get a bit of alone time, time away from passengers, time away from your coworkers, or it’s a chance to go buy socks or to buy deodorant. It’s a chance to go hiking and be in nature. I never realized how much I missed the sound of wind going through the leaves on trees until I was onboard for months this spring without nature. While it might not be said out loud that much going ashore (especially when passengers are back onboard and you can’t walk around the deck in “normal clothes” whenever you felt like it) is as much to explore the world as it is for reviving your mental health while working onboard. I could deal with it – I’d be onboard with my husband, I would have my built in support network right there, and we did a variation on it this spring during the shut down, we would be in it together and we’d make it through it together. A relatively short challenge to be faced when you have the prospect of your long-term careers on our minds. For others I can see why it would make them wary and it might not be worth it. It depends on where they are at in life, financially, in their careers, in their family lives, as well as mentally. Maybe getting away from home and zoom calls is what they need right now, or maybe the security of being home is exactly what they need. It really depends on the person what makes sense for them.
As for the masks, the temperature checks, the social distancing, and the testing, I could deal with all of that and it wouldn’t phase me one bit. I’ve worked at the restaurant next to a 400+ degree oven with a mask on while it was 90 degrees outside for 12+ hours. I think that depending on the guests it could be challenging to enforce, but at the same time I’d like to think that guests that were going to be difficult about the rules simply wouldn’t go onboard right now.
So, would I go back to work right now? Heck yes! This too shall pass and I would happily go back now and work to bring the guests the best experience they could in this situation, and hopefully secure myself a job for once things go back to normal. In the mean-time I would make a list of all the places I still wanted to go and I would get excited about the future I was building. In that regard, please contact me here with job offers!
When cruises really start going there is going to be a big mix of crew onboard. There will be crew that have been around for years (or decades), there will be crew that are so excited to be back, there will be crew that simply need a job to support their families, there will be brand new crew, and there will be everyone in between. Just like before there will be days that are incredibly rewarding and days that are incredibly challenging. Regardless of all of it there are certain aspects of cruising that will not change even in this crazy world we’re living in and I am totally game to be a part of it.
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